Ujah solo . . .
Ujah and Zoller . . .
Ujah and Osako . . .
Osako solo . . . (what?! WHY?!)
Zoller and Osako . . .
Zoller solo . . .
In eleven matches to open the Bundesliga season, that is six different looks Peter Stöger has offered opponents from the attacking end of his starting formations.
Three of those looks used thus far will be out of play for at least the next two matches, beginning with big home match against current direct mid-table competitor Hertha BSC.
The club reported Tuesday that Simon Zoller suffered a pulled left hamstring and will, hence, miss at least Saturday’s contest, as well as the match day 13 trip to Bayer Leverkusen.
Simon Zoller is the owner of one of just three goals the 1. FC Köln have gotten from a striker this season, that being the game-winner against Borussia Dortmund.
Such limited production from the part of your attack that gets paid to produce goals might indicate that a two-match loss of any one particular player shouldn’t weigh too heavily, but it does mean that Stöger will have already-diminished options further reduced for a few weeks, which also has a slightly heavier resonance with reports during the international break indicating Patrick Helmes is nowhere near ready to return to the squad. When looking for the right combination to unlock success, you’re better off having as many movable pieces as you can get.
It would seem almost certain that Ujah will see more-consistent time up front, potentially as a solo striker, but will Zoller’s injury open the possibility of Bård Finne seeing some playing time the next few weekends? Or could Stöger do something completely radical with formations and personnel?
Or even . . . dare I say it? . . . could Thomas Bröker get suited up?
Despite the recent track record of playing around with his squad, I’d expect you’ll see a more-conservative navigation through the coming matches. After all, Stöger is not even a little bit shy about being harshly dismissive of the notion that goal-production should be of concern currently, saying of continued questioning around offensive problems, “I can only hope that this shit eventually ends!”
And even though I am among those who moan at some of the things seen on the offensive end on match days, I offer a loud and hearty, “HELL YEAH! TELL ‘EM, COACH!” to that.
Because, as Stöger points out, the goal differential is in balance, with eleven on each side of the ledger. That has the club tenth in the table with 15 points. That’s a rate of 1.36 points per match, which, if maintained, would deliver 46 (and change) by season’s end. While the myth of 40 points being the threshold of automatic safety from relegation is only a myth, nobody has ever been relegated with 40 points, much less 46.
And, let’s face it, in this season’s league, it seems implausible the team finishing 15th (the last of the safety spots) will have quite 40 points. Last season, 46 points would have been enough for ninth place.
Looking at the first eleven fixtures on the schedule before the season started, 15 points would have seemed a very reasonable prediction of a point total headed into match day 12. You might could even say 15 would have seemed fairly optimistic for a promoted side.
Whatever your take, bet on Stöger being less interested in seeing more goals scored while he’s down another offensive player than he is in trying to assure the points continue to be collected.